Dr Emma Thomas
BA / BPsyc (Hons.) PhD

ARC Research Fellow, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology

About me

I am an Australian Research Council Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer within the School of Psychology. My research sits on the nexus of social and political psychology. I study how people and societies change and I believe that the two (personal and social change) are inextricably linked. As such, my research bears on topics of both theoretical and practical importance: when and how do people respond to injustice? When will people take up arms (engage in violence) in pursuit of social change? What is the role of modern forms of communication technologies (facebook etc.) in initiating social change?


Teaching area

Between 2012-2015 I will have reduced teaching responsibilities but I have previously taught:

PSY248 Social Bases of Behaviour

PSY412 BPsyc Seminar

Research areas

I am a social and political psychologist with research interests in the areas of:

  • collective action and social protest;
  • responses to social injustice and disadvantage, including emotional responses;
  • social identity and norm formation through social interaction.

Current projects

My current research interests fall into three areas.

1. Mass generosity and responses to humanitarian emergencies. My ARC-funded grant explores the social psychological underpinnings of (what I term) mass generosity: think of massive, public outpourings of support like that witnessed in the wake of the Boxing Day 2004 Asian Tsunami disaster.

I am leading research exploring personality and social attitudes towards global poverty. This research is, to my knowledge, the world’s largest and most detailed exploration of the psychological factors that underpin political support for reducing global poverty in developed countries. By tracking people over time we are able to understand how features of personality and attitudes interact with changes in the social and political context to promote, or undermine, support for the global poverty agenda. To date this research has involved over 2200 participants and has been conducted annually since 2012.

2. Social emotion, social identity and social action. A secondary line of research considers the role of emotion in fostering common social bonds (social identity) and providing a platform for coordinated social justice action, including bystander activism. My research explores the proposition that, in order to act together to achieve change, we must also feel together. A slice of this research, exploring the role of hope and resilience, is funded as part of the Cooperative Research Centre: Young and Well (CRC-YAW).

3. Violent and non-violent social action, activism and radicalism. A third line of research investigates the distinct processes that underpin support for violent and non-violent social action. We consider the antecedents of the development of a political consciousness (politicization), as well as the factors that lead people to turn away from more ‘conventional’ forms of protest and become more extreme in their methods (radicalization).

Awards and grants

2015 – Murdoch University Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Early Career Research

2012-2013 Spencer Foundation Grant New Civics Initiative: “Structured small group interaction and the foundations of civic participation” . $33 000

2012-2015 Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA): “Responding to humanitarian emergencies: Mass generosity as collective action”. $375 000

2012 Young and Well: Cooperative Research Centre (CRC-YAW): “Messages of hope and support amongst survivors of trauma and their supporters”. $32 000

2012 Top 10 nominee (7th place) for Murdoch University in the Lecturer of the Year awards (www.lectureroftheyear.com.au).

2010 Australian Psychological Society Excellent PhD Thesis in Psychology Award

Professional and community service

I act as an ad-hoc reviewer for all the major international social and political psychology journals.

I also act as an advisor to the Global Poverty Project: http://www.globalpovertyproject.com/



  • McGarty, C., Lala, G., Thomas, E., (2012),Opinion-based groups and the restoration of civil society,In: Restoring Civil Society, Wiley-Blackwell, pages 250 to 264.


  • Bliuc, A., McGarty, C., Thomas, E., Lala, G., Berndsen, M., Misajon, R., (2015), Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities, Nature Climate Change, 5, , pages 226 - 229.
  • Louis, W., Amiot, C., Thomas, E., (2015), Collective harm-doing: Developing the perspective of the perpetrator (NEED ARTICLE COPY), Peace and Conflict: journal of peace psychology, 21, 3, pages 306 - 312.
  • Thomas, E., McGarty, C., Lala, G., Stuart, A., Hall, L., Goddard, A., (2015), Whatever happened to Kony2012? : understanding a global Internet phenomenon as an emergent social identity, European Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 3, pages 356 - 367.
  • Thomas, E., McGarty, C., Louis, W., (2014), Social interaction and psychological pathways to political engagement and extremism, European Journal of Social Psychology, 44, , pages 15 - 22.
  • McGarty, C., Thomas, E., Lala, G., Smith, L., Bliuc, A., (2014), New Technologies, New Identities, and the Growth of Mass Opposition in the Arab Spring, Political Psychology, 35, 6, pages 725 - 740.
  • Lala, G., McGarty, C., Thomas, E., Ebert, A., Broderick, M., Mhando, M., Kamuronsi, Y., (2014), Messages of Hope: Using Positive Stories of Survival to Assist Recovery in Rwanda, Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2, 1, pages 450 - 468.
  • Thomas, E., Louis, W., (2014), When will collective action be effective? Violent and non-violent protests differentially influence perceptions of legitimacy and efficacy amongst supporters, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 2, pages 263 - 276.
  • Curtis, G., Gouldthorp, B., Thomas, E., O'Brien, G., Correia, H., (2013), Online academic-integrity mastery training may improve students' awareness of, and attitudes toward, plagiarism, Psychology Learning and Teaching, 12, 3, pages 282 - 289.
  • Stuart, A., Thomas, E., Donaghue, N., Russell, A., (2013), "We may be pirates, but we are not protesters": Identity in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Political Psychology, 34, 5, pages 753 - 777.
  • Thomas, E., Louis, W., (2013), Doing Democracy: The Social Psychological Mobilization and Consequences of Collective Action, Social Issues and Policy Review, 7, 1, pages 173 - 200.
  • Pedersen, A., Thomas, E., (2013), "There But for the Grace of God Go We": Prejudice Toward Asylum Seekers, Peace and Conflict: journal of peace psychology, 19, 3, pages 253 - 265.
  • Thomas, E., Mavor, K., McGarty, C., (2012), Social identities facilitate and encapsulate action-relevant constructs: A test of the social identity model of collective action, Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15, 1, pages 75 - 88.
  • Thomas, E., McGarty, C., Mavor, K., (2010), Social psychology of 'Making Poverty History': Motivating anti-poverty action in Australia, Australian Psychologist, 45, 1, pages 4 - 15.
  • Thomas, E., Smith, L., McGarty, C., Postmes, T., (2010), Nice and nasty: The formation of prosocial and hostile social movements, Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 23, 2-3, pages 17 - 55.
  • Thomas, E.F., McGarty, C. & Mavor, K.I (2009) Transforming ‘apathy into movement’: The role of prosocial emotions in motivating action for social change. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 13, 310-333.
  • Thomas, E.F., McGarty, C. & Mavor, K.I (2009) Aligning identities, emotions and beliefs to create sustained support for social and political action. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 13, 194-218.
  • McGarty, C., Bliuc, A.M, Thomas, E.F & Bongiorno, R. (2009) Collective action as the material expression of opinion-based group membership. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 839-858.
  • Thomas, E.F & McGarty, C. (2009) The role of efficacy and moral outrage norms in creating the potential for international development activism through group-based interaction. British Journal of Social Psychology, 48, 115-134.
  • Thomas, E.F (2005) The role of social identity in creating positive beliefs and emotions to motivate volunteerism. The Australian Journal of Volunteering, 2, 45-52.

Other Publications: Opinion pieces

  • Thomas, E.F. & Pedersen, A. (5th August 2015). What psychology has to say about how you should respond to racism. The Conversation. Available online: https://theconversation.com/what-psychology-says-about-how-you-should-respond-to-racist-behaviour-45599
  •  Louis, W.R. & Thomas, E.F. (17th February 2014). Protest in the 21st century: Is naked the new balaclava? The Conversation. Available online: https://theconversation.com/protest-in-the-21st-century-is-naked-the-new-balaclava
  • Thomas, E.F. (17th July 2012). Selling the carbon tax: individual versus collective self-interest. The Conversation. Available online: http://theconversation.edu.au/selling-the-carbon-tax-individual-versus-collective-self-interest-8091
  • Reynolds, K.J. & Thomas, E.F. (16th March 2009). All Codes Must Play Ball. The Canberra Times. (p.9)